What is Game-Based Learning?

The interest in game-based learning has accelerated considerably in recent years, driven by clear successes in military and industrial training. The US military, in particular, is using games and simulations to refine skills across the range of their training needs, from basic training to field medicine, to IED removal, to advanced operational strategies. Developers and researchers are working in every area of educational gaming, including games that are goal-oriented; social game environments; non-digital games that are easy to construct and play; games developed expressly for education; and commercial games that lend them selves to refining team and group skills. At the low end of game technology, there are literally thousands of ways games can be applied in learning contexts. Role-playing and other forms of simulated experiences have broad applicability across a wide range of disciplines, and are another rich area for exploration.

Still a few years away, but increasingly interesting, is the notion of creating massively multiplayer online (MMO) games expressly for learning, along the lines of games created for entertainment (e.g. World of Warcraft) or for both training and entertainment, such as America’s Army, created by the US military. MMOs bring many players together in activities that require them to work together to solve problems; they can be collaborative or competitive. They are often goal-oriented in ways that tie to a storyline or theme, but high levels of play often require outside learning and discovery. What makes this category of games especially compelling and effective is the multiple ways participants can be engaged — with other players, with the “back story,” in social contexts, and more — and the time they are willing to spend on task pursing the goals of the games.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • One of the primary barriers to adoption of games in education - not being perceived as a "serious" educational tool - may be disappearing. Several "very serious" heavy-hitters have come out in favor of game-based learning, including:
  • Major foundation support will help win campus adherents: Gates, Macarthur, NEH. - bryan bryan Oct 14, 2010
  • For the liberal arts world, student-generated content is highly valued. So we might do more with undergrads making game mods, in-game content, or whole games. Cf http://www.venatiocreo.com/ - bryan bryan Oct 14, 2010

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative expression?

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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